Land swap may save parcel near Ashcroft |

Land swap may save parcel near Ashcroft

Jeremy Heiman

A land swap may be in the cards for the Ryan parcel, a key piece of land leased by Ashcroft Ski Touring in the upper Castle Creek Valley, south of Aspen.

The swap would put the property in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service, thus saving it from development. That goal has so far eluded both the man who bought it to preserve it and the Forest Service, which he hoped would buy it.

Under the latest proposal, the Forest Service would give up a piece of land, called the Devaney parcel, just north of Toklat gallery near Ashcroft. Other land elsewhere would be included in the deal because the Devaney parcel was valued at less than the Ryan parcel in a recent appraisal.

Dale Will, director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, said an appraisal arranged by the Aspen Valley Land Trust indicates that while the Ryan parcel is valued at $3 million, the Devaney property came in at $1.75 million, leaving a shortfall of $1.25 million.

Another piece of National Forest land, perhaps the Ardmore property at the base of Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain, might complete the trade, Will said. This is where the Open Space and Trails program might enter the deal, perhaps buying part of the Ardmore property, or whatever other parcel could be substituted, to make up the shortfall and bring the value of land exchanged up to that of the Ryan parcel.

Cash from Open Space would go to the seller of the Ryan parcel to make up the shortfall.

Aspen District Ranger Rob Iwamoto of the U.S. Forest Service said the Devaney parcel, named after Devaney Creek, was not originally a defined parcel of land. The Forest Service has simply created a parcel around a good building site on Forest Service land near Ashcroft, to trade for the Ryan parcel, now in the hands of David Middleton.

Middleton, owner of the Elk Mountain Lodge near Ashcroft, bought the Ryan parcel to prevent its development about two years ago when it appeared it would be sold for a luxury home. At that time he hoped the Forest Service would be able to take the property off his hands quickly.

Middleton’s interest payments on the property are debilitating, and he has placed the property on the market. Iwamoto said no “plan B” currently exists except for Middleton to sell the land for development.

Iwamoto said the project recently moved up on the priority scale in the eyes of Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Lyle Laverty as a result of letters sent by the Aspen Ranger District and White River National Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle. But the exchange would still take up to two years, due to extensive evaluations, required by law, of both the land the Forest Service would give up and the land the agency would get in return.

The 35-acre Ryan parcel was formerly owned by the estate of skiing pioneer Ted Ryan. Its development could place a monster home in a scenic area used by the Ashcroft cross country skiing operation.

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